Saturday, April 08, 2006

From Polyphony to Joseph

Last night was an enjoyable concert, though it showed me how my tastes in choral music have evolved over the past several years. From the program notes: Although Germany produced few known composers in the Renaissance period of lasting value, the influence of a cappella polyphony of whatever origin was crucial to the training of all German composers who were to follow from Bach to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to Bruckner and Mahler. The extent of this influence has only just recently begun to be analyzed, though all these later composers were known to have made extensive studies of the music of Palestrina in particular. In this program I thought it would be interesting to examine the work of genuine German (and Swiss) Renaissance writers and see if they provide any clues as to how Mozart approached counterpoint and, for example, wrote a fugue. The greatest of these musicians were all active in the late 16th Century. Hieronymus Praetorius from Hamburg and Hans Leo Hassler from Nuremburg led the way. They were followed by such masters as Heinrich Sch├╝tz of Dresden and finally Johann Sebastian Bach, who between them made an unbroken tradition of writing (amongst other things) unaccompanied polyphony. I most enjoyed the Ave Maria by Ludwig Senfl, who had composed the piece in a tribute of sorts to Josquin DesPrez. The first half of the program featured pieces by the earlier composers, moving in the second half to Schutz and Bach. Oh, and the evolution? I enjoyed the polyphony much more. I've sung Schutz and Bach and enjoyed it very much when I was younger--about twenty years ago. Praetorius and Senfl were far more engaging for me last night. Perhaps it was the choir itself. Their treatment of the older music seemed a bit more lively, not that the Baroque material was a catastrophe for them, by any means. Tonight, the plan is to venture north of the river and see another teen production of Joseph. Of course, there's another production of this musical on the Kansas side. We could catch the last show of the run after 5PM Mass tomorrow night. Not that Brittany is a fanatic about these sorts of things.

Update: it seems I've forgotten about the small matter of Holy Thursday choir practice tomorrow night, as my wife was kind enough to remind me. Just as well; the whole Olathe production is sold out. Hmm, Kansans must have more than ID on their minds.

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